Chef Lidia Bastianich’s Festive Rainbow Cookies Are the Ultimate Holiday Treat

Celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich
Celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich | Andrew Toth/FilmMagic

Renowned chef Lidia Bastianich was one of the first television chefs to make Italian-American cuisine approachable for viewers.

Today there’s nothing the TV host, restaurateur, and author loves doing more than sharing her native land’s traditions through her public television cooking programs, cookbooks, and presence on social media.

Here is just one of the holiday cookie recipes that complete her Italian holiday table.

Bastianich’s Christmas memories

When Bastianich shares her memories and traditions on her various television programs, it’s like listening to a dear friend or relative talk about their happy past.

The mother of two told Parade in 2013 “the memories of my earliest Christmases were very warm, at my grandmother’s house in a little town in Italy. Our Christmas tree was edible!

“We made cookies, we dried figs that we had . . . the tree was delicious, it smelled delicious and on the sixth of January, which is the Befana, we ate the decorations.”

Her Rainbow Cookie recipe

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As Bastianich noted on her website, “There are many traditional Italian almond-paste cookies, but rainbow cookies seem to have been created in America by Italian American immigrants to honor the colors of the Italian flag. This recipe requires patience, but it is not difficult.

“You can find them in Italian bakeries year-round, but they are especially popular at Christmastime.”

The recipe calls for almond paste, sugar, unsalted butter, eggs, flour, red and green food coloring, apricot jam, and bittersweet chocolate.

How to make Bastianich’s Rainbow Cookies

Although the Rainbow Cookies recipe is a bit intimidating, it’s fun to make and to serve during the holiday season.

Combining the almond paste with sugar in a mixer, add butter and egg yolks until the batter is smooth. Slowly add in flour and mix until it’s thoroughly blended.

Whisk egg whites in a clean bowl until peaks form, slowly adding two tablespoons of sugar. Add a third of the egg whites to the almond paste batter, and then fold in the rest.

Food coloring is added to the batter, which you will have separated into three portions. One portion will be given green food coloring, another red, and the third will stay plain. Each portion is baked.

After the cakes have cooled, trim each of your cakes for evenness, and spread jam in between each cake to form one whole, large cake. Wrapping the entire cake in plastic wrap, weigh it down with cans and refrigerate it for at least four hours.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate using a double boiler.

Bastianich now calls for pouring the chocolate over your now unwrapped cake on a wire rack placed on a baking sheet. Spreading the chocolate over the cake, use a spatula to make sure the entire cake is blanketed in it.

The chef suggests allowing the cake to cool and harden in your kitchen if the room temperature is cool. If it is warm in your kitchen, the cake can be cooled in your refrigerator where the chocolate will harden properly.

Here’s the fun part, according to the Lidia’s Kitchen host: once the chocolate has almost set, use a fork to scrape the topping from one end of the cake to the other.

These are fun cookies that can be made and enjoyed with family and friends, just the way Chef Bastianich would have it!